It’s not really about my mom


Don’t want to leave everyone in suspense but between my schedule and the fact that I am in the midst of trying to understand what is going on inside of me, this will be brief (ok, admittedly, brief is a relative concept with me :)). While BN recognized that, of course, it hurt that my mother ignored my birthday, I was incredibly clear about the situation and completely understood what was going on. He pretty much nodded and uh-huhed his way through the beginning of the session. He told me later that he had not said a thing or offered any insight because I didn’t need any. That I was handling the hurt from my mom better now than in the past and that it would get better in the future. That maybe I was struggling to find compassion for her and maybe that would come easier in the future, maybe it wouldn’t but it was ok either way.

At the pivotal point of the session, I told BN that I understood that I could not do anything about my mother, that I could only deal with me. And he asked how I was going to do that? I started to tell him about the phone call I was planning to make to my mom next weekend and he interrupted me and said “I thought we were going to talk about you?” He got a blank stare, to which he said, “Do you understand what you did?” and I said “no, so can you explain?” He went on in what to any observer would have been a very gentle, clear manner to explain that I had come in two months ago and told him that although I realized that talking about my “weight, attractiveness and sexuality” (This is now one word. Evidently we cannot mention just ONE of these issues, they must all be said EVERY DAMN TIME. And yes, for the record, it’s excruciating EVERY DAMN TIME!) that I recognized there was a lot of shame coming up and that I might need to take a closer look but that I didn’t want to delve into it at the time. I wanted to take a break, a lot of things were going well and I wanted to enjoy the gains I had made. And he didn’t really mention this part, but it hit me, that I went in a month ago because I was worried about our relationship (hint: focusing on BN) and now I was there all wrapped up in my mom. And he pointed out again how I really had worked through so much of the issues, and that he really thought this was about avoiding myself. He did make it clear that he was offering an observation and could be off base, but when I could speak, I told him it felt right and like he hit the nail on the head.

This set off some very strong internal reactions which are still burbling around frantically, the strongest of which was “wow, I feel snagged.” It’s the family pattern, one, ironically, my mother has used most of her adult life, of finding the nearest rat bastard to marry so she can focus on how terrible he is and avoid looking at her own stuff. And then I got really scared, ’cause evidently I’m still not ready to go there. BN asked me what I was scared of and I answered “you and your damned hard questions!” and we shared a laugh. Actually, there was a lot of shared wry laughs in between me being upset and scared. We talked about some of my feelings about facing this and my discomfort with allowing myself to choose the time (I think a longer post is coming about all of that) and essentially ended with me deciding not to schedule another appointment. It helped that BN has a vacation coming up and I wouldn’t have been able to get in until Mid-April anyway. Since I had just been saying I wish someone else would make the decision for me, I thanked him for at least covering that one. 🙂

So I’m thinking through all that, but there is also a deep recognition that I just do not need him the way I used to and he is, I think, very appropriately, standing a little further back. Not working to contain me as much and expecting more out of me (not more than I am capable of, just more than I think I want to do at times). I am very much reminding myself of my older daughter struggling to accept adulthood and let go of being a child. I think because of my history (and to give myself a break, things with my mom aren’t helping) this anxiety about losing the relationship is kicking up which I think is really just because its changing. Funny, while I was typing this, I just remembered one of the last things BN said which was that this was a good time to practice self-compassion. Now where did I leave that?

  1. March 26, 2013 at 10:45 pm

    Oh, boy… Those dreaded words… “I could be wrong here and I know that you’ll let me know if I am.” In my experience, Mama Bear almost never is terribly far off base, and it sounds like BN is the same. Those pesky Ts who really listen to all of the levels of what you are saying!

    The “weight, attractiveness and sexuality” issue doesn’t happen to be one of the ones that are so terrifying for me to go near, but I have several of my own. So, my hat is off to you for working your way around to tackling the issues!!! And many supportive thoughts. And maybe by the time you have your appointment, we will have some sun, and sun makes everything better in Upstate New York, right? 😉

    Why does self compassion have to be so hard?!? Mama Bear told me that at the workshop on C-PTSD treatment that she just went to, they talked a lot about how essential to healing two skills in particular are: self compassion and present time orientation. Both of them can be devilishly difficult to master… I hope that you are able to locate some of your self compassion soon…

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    • March 27, 2013 at 10:43 am

      Oh, boy… Those dreaded words… “I could be wrong here and I know that you’ll let me know if I am.”

      Ah, Cat, you really do get it. 🙂 And yeah, if Mama Bear and BN weren’t different genders, I’d really be wondering if we weren’t seeing the same therapist! Hold off on the congratulations, thought, I have a feeling this may take a while. The funny thing is that since the session, I find myself very worried and sad about the relationship with BN, insecure in a way I haven’t been for a while and then I realize “damn, I’m doing it again.” You know it was a very instinctual decision to take a break from therapy. I think I NEED to be alone with myself for a while so that I can’t focus on the other, its a little discouraging to find how difficult that can still be. Thanks for understanding and the encouragement. I’ll find it, i just have to keep remembering what I would say if I was talking to someone else, then say it to myself.

      And bring on the sun, you are so right! We usually vacation somewhere sunny in the middle of the winter, but didn’t this year and I miss the sun!! Its hard to explain those February blues to someone who hasn’t been through an Upstate winter. 🙂 xx AG

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  2. GreenEyes
    March 28, 2013 at 7:02 pm

    Hey AG, just wanted you to know I read this and you have my support. In what ive read of your journey, you don’t shy away from the tough issues, you face them as you’re ready. This sounds like a big one for you that is complex and has multiple meanings.
    We are coming off the hottest Feb and March on record so the idea of winter chill is highly appealing!
    Happy Easter xx

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    • March 30, 2013 at 11:07 am

      GE,
      Thanks for the confidence. 🙂 And I agree this one is large and complex. I also think for some reason it carries a VERY deep sense of threat so its hard to get there. I think I am trying not to look directly at it while taking tiny crab-like steps towards it. If there’s one thing I’ve learned over the long haul, it’s that you get to it when you get to it. I’ve just never been a very patient person. 🙂 Happy Easter! xx AG

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  3. liz
    March 29, 2013 at 3:54 am

    I’ve been reading the last paragraph over and over (I hope you’ll write a whole post about that subject at some point), I could have written it myself.

    (also, the “weight, attractiveness and sexuality” part resonated a lot, now that I think about it. I probably missed the point of this post completely :-D)

    Anyway, I’m sure you’ll find a way to practice self compassion. I mean, all this stuff you’re writing, isn’t it all about self compassion, in the end?

    Happy holidays, if you have holidays!

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    • March 30, 2013 at 11:10 am

      Liz,
      I will be writing more about that last paragraph when opportunity permits. I am doing a lot of thinking about it, what is going on, and what does it mean. Which means at some point it will come out in a post. 🙂 And thanks for the reminder that this blog is about self-compassion, it was an excellent point! Hope you have a good holiday also. xx AG

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  4. dpblusee
    March 30, 2013 at 11:34 am

    Hi AG,

    I had to read this a few times to understand what the “real” issue is. (Maybe it’s because I happen to be dealing with this issue too! ;)). I have had three sessions in which I tell my T I am going to talk about this thing over here because I am totally aware and conscious that I am avoiding talking about THAT thing over there! The first time I brought it up to start to talk about it I had so much shame come up and I felt so uncomfortable that I told him it felt like a first session even though I have been seeing him for two and a half years!

    Anyway, I still continue to avoid it but know it is important to talk about and I know I will when I am ready.

    The other aspect of your post about your relationship with BN is so interesting and I can see how that would happen (for me it is a long way off!) but I am thinking it might be quite bittersweet. I am wondering if that is how it feels for you?

    Have a wonderful holiday, if you celebrate.
    DBS

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    • April 2, 2013 at 12:20 am

      Hi DBS,
      Nice to know I am not the only one to occasional “dance” with my stuff. I think what makes this so hard is that I have been dancing for SO long around this one. I think I am honestly just building up my resolve to go at “it” (whatever “it” is). There is also a lot of shame around it, which makes me also want to stay away. Pain is one thing, but shame often feels simply unbearable to me. But you’re right, I’ll go there when I’m ready (its the trying not to feel like a coward in the meantime that I am working on. It feels very odd to give myself permission to stop and not go at it right away).

      As for my relationship with BN, I think they invented the word bittersweet for just such an occasion. I am doing a lot of thinking and mulling through things on a lot of levels, but am in the midst of it. There is both a sense of accomplishment and a lot of sadness. I can miss needing him so much and I can miss the level of care he gave when I really did need him that way. And it is intersecting in very interesting ways with my mother refusing to return my calls and cutting off the relationship. I wrote to a friend that it is very difficult to know that the person who is closest to being a parent to me, is also someone whom I have to call an answering service to talk to. It is painful. It is deeply odd to say the least to be both deeply, significantly grateful for a relationship while simultaneously understanding it is not enough. I think I am moving towards acceptance (at least I hope so!).

      And thank you, I do celebrate Easter and we had a lovely, but quiet one. Neither of our daughters made it home this year but my husband and I really enjoyed some time together, as we have been seeing very little of each other due to my work schedule. xx AG

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  5. George
    April 1, 2013 at 4:50 pm

    Wow, I feel as though you’re saying something that I can’t quite hear… I don’t think I’ve had this experience reading your blog before. It’s like it’s right in front of me. Is the title of this post a clue? I think it is. And I think the reason I can’t understand what you’re saying is that I’m a little afraid to face it myself. I keep making noises to my own BN about going, but I do it in such a way that he keeps interpreting that as my feeling I don’t deserve to stay, but really … I wonder what it would take for me to begin to leave? I once told him that I would need his help in order to do that, but he isn’t giving it. It’s probably because he knows best. A lot of my emotional storms are past and settled, I think, because I’ve been going to him so long, but quite a deep “identity” issue remains that may be the crux of why I got into the process to begin with. But because I don’t often spend sessions in overt turmoil anymore, it makes me think I may not need him anymore and that I’m just staying out of fear of the loss of the relationship. Does any of this resonate with you, AG, and would you have any response? I really value your experience and, as always, appreciate your writing.

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    • George
      April 1, 2013 at 5:29 pm

      Huh; re-reading my previous comment now, I think it was a masterpiece of projection and nuttiness, and I was probably way off-topic. ?

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    • April 2, 2013 at 12:33 am

      (((George))) I love it! I write a barely coherent, jumbled post reflecting a lot of my own confusion and you think you’re the problem! 🙂 I don’t think I was all that clear my dear.

      There are really three different thing going on right now: my mother cutting me off, realizing that I am needing BN much less these days and am more capable of being on my own and last but not least using both of those issues, at times, to distract myself from knowing that there are some issues surrounding my weight, my body and my sexuality that need exploring.

      BN offered the very astute observation that getting so intense about my mom and focusing so much on it, was partially an attempt to focus away from me. And its a focus that won’t do me much good since my mother is out of my control. And that led to me realizing that I can also focus on BN in the same way.

      He has also been pushing a STRONG theme lately of me being done grieving and looking into the past, that now it is about growing and the vulnerabilities I hit as I risk moving out of my comfort zone and learning to live more fully. I think I have been healing for so long, that I don’t quite know what to do with myself if I am done (in the sense of actually dealing with my past. I don’t think you ever stop growing and learning and deepening your understanding). So I’m not sure if I am done with therapy (my breaks never seem to take too strongly. LOL) but what I am doing in therapy is changing. And like all change, it feels a little unsettling. Not least, because I can also start struggling with the sense that then the relationship needs to end. Which it doesn’t, neither in the sense that I have to stop seeing BN or in the more metaphysical sense that we will always have this relationship.

      So I totally understand why you came away with what you did, nor do I think it was projection or nuttiness. There’s just a very complex mix of stuff going on for me, and you picked up on a thread that strongly resonated with you. Which is what everyone does when we take in other people’s experience. It’s good to hear from you. xx AG

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      • George
        April 2, 2013 at 1:15 pm

        You are just the greatest, AG. ❤ Thanks so much for the clarification and further discussion. I also identify with some things you said in your reply, especially "I think I have been healing for so long, that I don’t quite know what to do with myself if I am done." I've often asked the question myself, "Who am I if this isn't what I do and I don't have you [my "BN"] to do it with?" That is a scary void to face, or even to contemplate facing. And the focusing on the therapist to avoid focusing on myself… That's something that I don't think will ever fully go away, because it's part of my character. I think there will always be a part of me that, when I talk about him, or what he must be thinking, or about my speculation about his life (a virtually closed book, as you know)–and he answers, "Again you seem to be focusing on me, and I wonder what you might be avoiding in your self"–will always answer, "Nothing! You're just so awesome I'd rather talk about you!" and really believe it. In other words, "There's nothing to see here; you're much more interesting to me… you tantalizing enigma, you." LOL

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      • George
        April 2, 2013 at 1:23 pm

        Oh, and “weight, attractiveness, and sexuality”? oof. That resonates like crazy. In a way, it’s the lot of most women to some extent, because our worth is supposed to depend on our looks, but that’s certainly far from the whole story. We may have even more specific and personal reasons for being wounded in that respect, and on this trifecta of things–hoo boy, do I hear you. Actually, the other day my T’s neutral, innocuous question after I’d been expressing self-critical things about myself, “Is there something wrong with your appearance?” was very refreshing. I don’t know what he really thinks about the way I look, but just entertaining the idea that he may not see why I say what I do about myself was comforting and I keep thinking about it.

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  6. April 2, 2013 at 1:40 am

    “weight, attractiveness and sexuality” might be the scariest words I’ve ever heard with “self-compassion” close behind. I appreciate hearing about your confusion and how you process things in the session with BN because I am still stuck mainly feeling numb and stupidly frozen in sessions followed quickly by a confusing mix of overwhelming feelings and then slowly sometimes by processing and understanding.

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    • April 3, 2013 at 10:01 am

      Attached,
      I know right?!! Any of those words alone is enough to terrify me but all three together is almost paralyzing. Which is probably why BN uses all three each time. I think its an attempt to de-sensitize me. 🙂 And I know it can be slow going. Its important to remember that I had YEARS of therapy before I even met BN, and I’ve been working with him for almost seven. This is really difficult stuff to heal from and it takes time. But please know I spend plenty of time confused and overwhelmed and feeling like I have NO idea what is going on. Its the danger of writing about this stuff in retrospect, it can make it sound much clearer and neater than it is when you’re experiencing it. xx AG

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  7. Ann
    May 4, 2013 at 2:29 pm

    Where have you been? I miss your writing. Ann

    Like

    • May 4, 2013 at 10:58 pm

      Hi Ann,
      Your timing is incredible. I was working on a new post when I got this. Nice to know I was missed, thank you. The new post is Finally Back (thought that was an apt title. :))

      AG

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